What is direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination?

Under s.18 of the Equality Act 2010, direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination occurs if, during the protected period, a woman is treated unfavourably because of their pregnancy or because of illness suffered by them as a result of pregnancy. Discrimination also occurs if a woman is treated unfavourably because they are on compulsory maternity leave; are exercising or seeking to exercise the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave; or have exercised or sought to exercise the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave.

Section 18(6) provides that the "protected period" begins "when the pregnancy begins" and ends:

  • if the woman has the right to ordinary and additional maternity leave, at the end of the additional maternity leave period or (if earlier) when they return to work after the pregnancy (s.18(6)(a)); or
  • if they do not have the right to ordinary and additional maternity leave (for example, because they are not an employee), at the end of the period of two weeks beginning with the end of the pregnancy (s.18(6)(b)).